How to introduce older kids to plant-based eating. Is it better late than never? Here are some practical tips for making the switch to a plant-based diet for older kids.
While we often talk about feeding infants and baby-led weaning, we recognize that many of you have older children (and as sad as it makes us, our babies are growing up fast too!).
Many families are choosing to adopt a predominantly plant-based diet, and this doesn’t always happen until kids are older. And that’s okay!
In this post, we want to offer some guidance we hope will help make your experience enjoyable and successful.
When to introduce kids to a plant-based diet
Hear us clearly when we say that it’s never too late to add more plants to your child’s diet.
Whether this means starting your child on a plant-based diet from birth, or not until he’s 5, 10, or 15, the right time is the time you choose.
We support a plant-based diet, whatever it looks like, and whenever it’s adopted, for your unique family.
Tips for making the plant-based switch with older kids
We know that every family situation is different and there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to making lifestyle changes. That being said, here are a few general guidelines that can be applied to any scenario.
1. Start with familiar recipes
Many of the meals you currently enjoy as a family are likely already plant-based, or very close to it.
Some examples may include pasta with red sauce, PB&J sandwiches, and breakfast items like oatmeal.
It can be helpful to start with these recipes and simply serve more plant foods alongside them. For instance, a basic noodle dish with a side of roasted veggies and some fresh fruit slices.
Recipes that aren’t plant-based may just need a slight adjustment to get them there. For instance, meat sauce over spaghetti could be replaced with a sauce made using marinara and lentils.
2. Introduce new foods without pressure
We advocate for practicing Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility at meals. This means that it’s your job to offer foods to your child at specific meal times, and it’s your child’s job to decide whether and how much of it to eat.
This can be practiced as part of a transition in diet, too.
To encourage comfort, don’t overhaul your family’s entire menu at once or pressure your child to try the new foods that are presented.
Instead, incorporate new plant foods alongside foods you know your child already likes, without making a big deal out of the changes.
3. Practice patience
Remember that this transition doesn’t have to be 100%. Whatever the end goal for your family’s diet looks like, you’ll reach it eventually.
Most kids don’t eat enough plants as it is. Any increase in plant foods, or shift away from a Western diet, should be celebrated!
Changing diet patterns can be hard, but any positive habits you expose your child to now can serve them for life. Remember, nutrition is a long game.
Your child may eat differently when out of the house and that’s okay. He or she will learn to practice more food independence the less they are reliant on you for food.
Children implement things they learn at home when they’re out in the world, which often includes making similar food choices.
4. Do it together
Your child is more likely to feel comfortable making changes if the family makes them together.
How can you include your children in the plant-based switch? Allow them to contribute ideas for meals and snacks, participate in meal prep, and be willing to answer any questions they have.
For some families, this may also mean participating in activities that reflect the reasons behind your family’s plant-based switch, like a health fair, environmental event, or visit to a farm sanctuary.
These types of things can help your child make a deeper connection that make a plant-based diet more sustainable.
If you’ve been wondering how to introduce older kids to plant-based eating, we encourage you to try some of these tips. It’s never too late to switch to a plant-based diet for older children.
Chime in: Have you transitioned your family to a plant-based diet with older children? What was your experience like?
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Tex Hooper says
I appreciate what you said about making sure your kids can pick their own foods in the diet. I need to get a plant based meal plan set up for my kids. I think it will help them grow.